Chart: Federal cannabis policy reform at standstill despite record number of bills in Congress

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Support for marijuana policy reform at the federal level is reaching a fever pitch, fueling a surge in the number of marijuana-related bills introduced to this session of Congress.

A Marijuana Business Daily analysis found that 41 pro-cannabis bills have been introduced in the 115th session of Congress, nearly identical to the total number of pro-cannabis bills introduced between 1999 and 2015.

And more bills will likely be introduced before the current meeting of Congress ends Jan. 3, 2019.

Don Murphy, director of federal policies at the Washington DC-based Marijuana Policy Project, believes the growing body of legislation favoring cannabis is being driven by three primary factors:

  • Elected officials responding to the views of their constituencies, many of which favor cannabis legalization and federal policy reform.
  • Increasing awareness of problems with existing marijuana laws, namely issues around cannabis businesses’ lack of access to banking and high tax burdens because of Section 280E of the federal tax code.
  • Anti-marijuana congressional committee chairs that have stopped pro-cannabis legislation from moving forward in Congress – giving lawmakers few outlets to voice their support for policy reform.

While a number of influential politicians have become more receptive to the idea of marijuana legalization – chief among them President Donald Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner – just two of the 41 marijuana policy reform bills introduced in this session of Congress have been given a committee hearing – much less a vote – and none have passed either the House or Senate.

MPP’s Murphy believes marijuana policy reform advocates on Capitol Hill have the support they need to push through legislation – they just need to be given a chance to vote.

That chance could come if Democrats take control of either one or both chambers of Congress after the 2018 midterm elections or mounting political pressure forces committee chairs to allow a vote on marijuana policy reform.

In the meantime, lawmakers will likely use the opportunity to introduce pro-cannabis bills to affirm their support for the industry.

Eli McVey can be reached at